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Letters to the editor

August 17, 2001 | Page 4

IMF's victims in Guatemala
Fighting oil drilling in upstate New York
New movie promotes anti-Asian humor

Creating a class system for cyberspace

Dear Socialist Worker,

There's something wrong with the Internet. At least according to a growing number of business leaders.

"The Internet is an important cultural phenomenon, but that doesn't excuse it's failure to comply with basic economic laws," telecommunications consultant Thomas Nolle argued recently.

"The problem is that it was devised by a bunch of hippie anarchists who didn't have a strong profit motive. But this is a business, not a government-sponsored network."

What's Nolle's gripe? Currently, information transferred over the Internet--whether a Web page or e-mail or a music file download--is broken up into "packets." These data packets are passed along the Internet by specialized machines called "routers."

Here's the problem, as the businesspeople see it--all packets on the Internet are created equal. A router treats each one the same, whether it's from Microsoft or your aunt.

The lords of online commerce want this "hippie anarchist" technology changed. Ideally, for them, routers would be able to distinguish between packets with lower or higher priorities.

And how do you get to send "high priority" packets? Like everything else, you'd have to pay. Big entertainment companies doing video "Webcasts" or corporations with large data transfers would be first in line. And that means your e-mail or Web search would wait.

There's already a "digital divide" in terms of access to the Internet. Now the bosses want it built into the structure of the Internet itself!

Stuart Easterling, Los Angeles

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IMF's victims in Guatemala

Dear Socialist Worker,

We've seen two weeks of protest here in Guatemala against a regressive value added tax (VAT) proposed by the government of President Alfonso Portillo and--not surprisingly--heartily supported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.

The VAT is a consumption tax that would increase the price of every basic good by 12 percent--all food and all clothing, every tortilla and every pair of shoes. It would obviously hit Guatemala's numerous poor the hardest.

Every major city has seen protests, ranging in size from 100 to 10,000. Of all the workers I've talked with, none supports the tax. Most everyone I talked to is also aware of the direct connection between Portillo's plan and the IMF and World Bank.

In my discussions, I've been thinking a lot about the importance of the September 28 protests against the IMF and World Bank in Washington, D.C., to workers' movements all over the world. That includes movements like this one in Guatemala--about which we hear very little, if anything, in the U.S.

Keith Danner, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

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Fighting oil drilling in upstate New York

Dear Socialist Worker,

In July, some 200 angry residents of upstate New York turned out to protest proposed oil and gas drilling in Finger Lakes National Forest. A week later, 150 turned out again when the U.S. Forest Service held an open house.

The Finger Lakes area is widely renowned for its natural beauty. But corporations are planning to build between 15 and 32 gas wells, as well as access roads and pipelines.

Possible environmental damage would include blowouts (where gas or oil jets catch on fire), erosion and contamination of soil and contamination of drinking water wells.

Meanwhile, some lucky private oil company would rake in 87.5 percent of the royalties, while local governments would get only 3 percent. Meanwhile, towns in this rural, economically depressed area would have to foot the bill for road maintenance.

But area residents aren't about to let this happen. By speaking out, they won "no drilling" resolutions in the towns of Lodi and Hector and in the Schuyler and Seneca county councils.

As Jesse Stock of the Finger Lakes Forest Watch Congress said, "We're here to tell them that this is our land. We don't want it destroyed, we want it preserved."

Kyle Gilbertson, Hector, N.Y.

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New movie promotes anti-Asian humor

Dear Socialist Worker,

I've been disgusted by ads for the new movie Rush Hour 2. But unfortunately, anti-Asian humor is far too often ignored in the corporate media.

Previews for this movie show actor Chris Tucker throwing racial slurs at his costar Jackie Chan on a regular basis. For instance, he hits Chan by accident during a big fight scene--and then says, "All y'all look alike."

It's disturbing to see this kind of humor promoted daily, but nothing less is to be expected from the same corporate-controlled media that shouted anti-Chinese remarks from the rooftops when a U.S. spy plane was forced down earlier this year.

Presentations of Asians in the corporate media are inevitably full of stereotypes. But we can't just sit by and laugh.

I, for one, won't be watching Rush Hour 2 anytime soon, and I would encourage others to join an active fight against racism in an unjust society.

Rebecca Anshell, San Diego

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